So I just beat Hero Mode in Splatoon 2. For the most part, I enjoyed it, but there is quite a bit to complain about as well.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW
For starters, the mode's story is essentially a copy/paste of the first game's Hero Mode, in that the Octarians have stolen the Great Zapfish, and you have to get it back. However, this time around, Callie has gone missing as well, and you have to find her (turns out, she was kidnapped by DJ Octavio and brainwashed using what he called Hypnoshades; she stands on top of DJ Octavio's stage mech during the final battle, but otherwise, does nothing else except sing).
Gameplay-wise, it is mostly the same, in that it is a platforming game where you use your weapon to fire ink and splat Octarians. However, there are some instances that differ from the first game:
1. First and foremost, you have a variety of weapons to choose from (instead of having to use an Amiibo like in the first game). The first time you play through these levels, you can only play with one weapon, especially if Sheldon gives you one for "research." But when replaying these levels, you can select any weapon you want for completion's sake.
2. Every level, along with a Sunken Scroll, has what is known as Sardinium, which you can apparently use to upgrade weapons at Ammo Knights. At the time of writing this, I am unable to access Ammo Knights, because I cannot participate in any Turf Wars (due to currently being on vacation in Northern Wisconsin with extremely limited Internet capabilities), so I cannot use the Sardinium I collected.
3. You can now shoot ink while grinding on ink rails. This is important when fighting DJ Octavio.
4. Speaking of DJ Octavio, the boss battle seems a bit more simplistic this time around compared to the first game. Instead of traveling through a large world like in the first game, you are confined to an arena similar to the ones that you fought the other bosses in. You still have to shoot at his fists and knock them back at him, but instead of having to shoot back an ink missile that he fires at you, like in the first game, he falls out of his stage mech, and you have to shoot him. Eventually, you will grind along ink rails above the arena, wielding a Rainmaker, but essentially the goal is the same: knock his fists back at him until he falls to the ground, and once you jump onto him, you win.
But now, we get to the part where we critique some of these points.
For starters, I am not fond of the story. For one, given that it's a repeat of the first game's story, nothing fresh (no pun intended) was really added to it. Then again, Nintendo is notorious for repeating the same story over and over again (Bowser kidnaps Peach, and Mario has to save her; Ganon kidnaps Zelda, and Link has to save her; Andross threatens the Lylat system, and Star Fox has to defeat him; Samus has to fight off the Space Pirates and the Metroids; you get the idea), with minor alterations.
And I think they really dropped the ball with Callie's disappearance. Simply having her brainwashed, but really contributing nothing else to the story except for some dialogue really felt like a waste of her character this time around. I would have preferred that Agent 4 battled Callie before fighting DJ Octavio.
But I had one idea that would have been better all around:
Given that the events of the final Splatfest from the last game were supposed to tie into the events of this game, I think it would have been better for Nintendo to have written the story so that Callie was secretly bitter about the results of the final Splatfest, and her bitterness and anger eventually caused her to snap, and she willingly defected to the Octarians, and stole the Great Zapfish to show that she meant business.
During the final battle, after Agent 4 fought Callie, Marie would battle Callie on top of the stage while Agent 4 battled DJ Octavio. Eventually, Agent 4 would defeat DJ Octavio, and the stage would crash to the ground. Marie would jump to safety, but Callie would be buried under the rubble. Marie would rush to the stage and dig through the rubble to save Callie, who had just been knocked unconscious.
Callie comes to, and Marie confronts her one last time. Callie, overcome with a wave of regret, breaks down into tears and pours out her feelings about the result of the Splatfest. Marie embraces her cousin and comforts her, saying that the results of the Splatfest never mattered to her; in her book, Callie was always Number One. After all, Callie was Agent 1 for a reason. Callie apologizes for what she did and vows to be a better sport in the future. Callie and Marie then get back together and go on a reunion tour.
And when you go to replay the final boss battle, a robotic replica of Callie replaces the real Callie, which Marie fights while you battle DJ Octavio. Except instead, the cutscene where Callie and Marie reconcile does not happen.
And then, we get to the gameplay aspect. Despite some new elements added, like different weapons and gameplay mechanics, it still largely felt the same as the first game. And that's not a good thing. I had hoped that it would have been taken in an entirely different direction this time around with the gameplay. If you rely on the same method of gameplay, you run the risk of the series becoming stale.
That's why I hope, if they make a Splatoon 3, that they go in an entirely different direction with the gameplay and story in Hero Mode. I had a couple ideas:
1. Instead of the Octarians trying to steal the Great Zapfish once again, I'd like to see them launch an all-out invasion of Inkling society. And due to their technological superiority (as evidenced by one of the Sunken Scrolls in this game), they are close to winning the war. It is up to Cap'n Cuttlefish and the New Squidbeak Splatoon to launch a daring and desperate counterattack to drive back the Octarians and defeat them once and for all. Cap'n Cuttlefish and the Squid Sisters would take a support role, giving orders, offering advice, and dropping ordinance. Agents 3 and 4 would not appear, given that they are on a mission elsewhere. The New Squidbeak Splatoon would be comprised of four new members: Agent 5, a male Inkling and the leader of the squad, with a serious, no-nonsense demeanor; Agent 6, a female Inkling with a bubbly, happy-go-lucky personality, but still extremely capable in combat; Agent 7, a female Octoling who defected to the Inklings, and has a cold and distant exterior, but warms up to the rest of the team, especially Agent 8; and finally Agent 8, the newest recruit, and can either be a female or male Inkling or Octoling (player's choice).
2. Instead of having it as a platformer like in the first two games, have each level as an open space, where you and your team progress through the level, splatting the Octarians, trying to reach your objective. In a way, the gameplay would be similar to Halo or Call of Duty. Yes, it's a dramatic change from the previous two games, but one that I think would keep the series fresh enough to stay relevant for current and future gamers alike.
Ultimately, while I largely enjoyed the Hero Mode (despite a couple levels where I got multiple game overs), I felt it could have been better. I would hope that Splatoon 3, if they ever make one, will implement some of the changes I suggested to make it better than it could ever be.
So, as it stands now, taking into account story and gameplay, I would rate Hero Mode in Splatoon 2: